The operational costs of loading arms could fall as a result of new digital technologies and processes
“Shipowners’ and operators’ wishes are very focused on optimising cost of ownership, so that’s how we orientate our developments,” explains TechnipFMC general manager sales and services Cyril Martin, who believes the next generation of developments will be linked to digitalisation.
“They [owners and operators] want the systems to be more simple and user friendly,” he notes, a belief gleaned from the regular workshops the company organises with owners and operators where it gathers feedback on operational and business requirements and the performance of systems.
One notable area ripe for simplification is the control of loading arms during connection, says TechnipFMC technical director Eric Morilhat. Connecting the flange and manifold during loading arm operations can be a challenging process, with remote control units often requiring several joysticks and the different movement types of the arm also requiring different joysticks, which can lead to slewing and excessive movement inboard and outboard.
TechnipFMC are offering a new technology – called EasyDrive – which aims to make such operations straightforward. Mr Morilhat explains: “The purpose of the EasyDrive is to make a more intuitive connection, so if you want to move straight forward or backward you just have one joystick, rather than using several with a conventional manoeuvring system, which provide the user with safer and enhanced connection capabilities.”
He adds: “We [also] have the Constant Position Monitoring System (CPMS), which allows [operators] to know the position of the loading arm at any time, but also the stresses seen by the loading arms and the LNGC manifolds.”
Mr Morilhat goes on to explain that a more intuitive and simple operational mode increases safety for operators and assets and notes that that operators can potentially harm themselves or others, or damage equipment if they make an error while manipulating the loading arm.
The company is also challenging the dominance of hydraulics-based movement systems on loading arms. An electrical marine loading arm was revealed to the industry last year and the company is hoping in the longer term to replace all of its hydraulic manoeuvring systems with electrical systems.
Electrics over hydraulics
While hydraulics still dominate the market, developments in electrical systems and components can match the performance of hydraulics while offering significant savings on operational expenditure, due to reduced maintenance. The potential impact of oil leaks from hydraulic systems also disadvantages the technology, as aside from safety concerns and clean-up costs there are environmental and reputational impacts to consider.
While the new system has not yet been brought to market, TechnipFMC has been undertaking prototype testing and expects the first installation of the new technology to be completed soon.
The company has also recently introduced its Articulated Rigid Catenary Offloading System (ARCOS). An arrangement of three 16-inch lines – stainless steel – placed in a catenary arrangement, using swivel joints on the loading arms to provide six degrees of freedom, ARCOS is intended to combine the benefits of both flexible (cryogenic hoses) and rigid (loading arms) transfer systems.
Time savings of up to 30% on the full transfer process can be achieved using ARCOS, says Mr Morilhat, adding that the design has received a statement of endorsement of DNV GL.
Elsewhere, an enhanced emergency release system (ERS) for bunkering has been developed by MIB Italiana which offers a simplified control system architecture and reduced operational and maintenance requirements.
The new solution was derived from the company’s experience in large-scale ship-to-ship (STS) transfer systems, typically employed on FSRUs. MIB Italiana sales and business development manager Luca Chiodetto says: “Our experience in that market is a major benefit as it helped us to implement a number of peculiarities into the new bunkering system’s development, both from a design and operational perspective.”
He adds: “The new ERS, purposely designed for LNG bunkering operations, offers a very simple and user-friendly interface, considerably simplifying the overall control system architecture and substantially relaxing operation and maintenance requirements.”
Mr Chiodetto continues: “We are also able now to offer project-specific system layouts and configurations, offering the flexibility to modularise the set-up to suit any needs by the LNG bunker vessel owner/operator, or even by the fuel receiving ship’s owner/operator.”
Purging and drying
New equipment is now available to address the issue of purging and drying of lengthy cargo hoses before they are disconnected from the receiving ship.
This capability has been field proven by MIB Italiana on larger-scale STS transfer systems and is now under evaluation with undisclosed majors for application on LNG bunker transfer systems, says Mr Chiodetto, who adds that prospects are positive for the technology to be deployed soon.
Elsewhere, a newly developed system from Trelleborg combines an emergency shutdown system (ESDS) and ship-shore link (SSL) that could reduce both the footprint of equipment and wiring on board a vessel, while offering greater monitoring capabilities.
Trelleborg’s technical director Andrew Stafford explains: “The increasing prevalence of electrical systems on board vessels with associated cabinets means that space in control rooms is a real concern for operators.”
Historically, ESDS used discrete logical relay systems that tended to be bulky; more recently, PLC-based systems have taken over that still have a large footprint to house the electronics. Trelleborg stripped down the PLC, removing unnecessary functions to reduce the system’s size.
“We engineered our own processor cards and IO modules, so we were able to integrate a lot of functionality into a small package,” says Mr Stafford.
And with the new version of the IGC code specifying vessels must be equipped with an SSL as well as an ESDS, combined systems could offer compelling advantages in terms of space savings.
However, the information operators receive about ESDS can be limited, with some models having no operator interface. Explains Mr Stafford: “If there’s a problem, it’s down to an electrician to go and trace where the fault is.
“There’s no indication of what caused the trip, where it might be; there’s no feedback on the panel itself and all you know is that there has been a trip.”
Trelleborg aims to provide greater visibility for operators via an interface on the combined SSL-ESDS unit that provides a full status display and line of cause-and-effect.
The integrated system also cuts down on the amount of cabling needed, saving on installation costs, says Mr Stafford. He notes a tendency for full-cabinet systems to have excessive cabling. “You can reduce copper costs by doing smart wiring,” he says, “On deck you might have seven or eight push buttons that can be wired back to a single junction box somewhere on deck – you then take a single suitable multi-pair cable up to the cabinet, so you have redundancy in your local junction box and the cable, but you don’t have to pay for additional cabling that won’t be used.”
“Everything’s displayed to the user so they can see exactly what condition the system is in, so they don’t have to go and do extensive fault-finding,” says Mr Stafford.
Transfer systems on board the world’s largest bunker vessel
Kairos is the world’s largest LNG bunker vessel and has been in service delivering bunkers since December 2018.
The 7,500 m3 vessel is currently owned by Babcock Schulte Energy, a 50/50 joint venture between Babcock international Group and Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement. It is currently time chartered by Blue LNG, a joint venture held 90% by Nauticor, with the remainder held by Klaipedos Nafta (KN); however, it was recently announced that Nauticor has exercised its option to acquire KN’s stake to gain 100% control.
LNG World Shipping spoke with Babcock International to learn more about Kairos’ transfer capabilities.
Kairos can perform both STS bunkering and transhipment operations, providing LNG bunkering for ferries, container ships, cruise ships and land-based gas consumers. It is not surprising that the world’s largest bunker vessel would be based in the Baltic, which was one of the first Emissions Control Areas (ECA). Many large roro ferries in the region were early adopters of LNG as a marine fuel. Kairos’ clients will include Gothia Tanker Alliance, the Swedish operator of a fleet of regional North/Baltic Sea chemical/product distribution tankers that run on LNG. To this end, Kairos’ cargo handling and transfer systems can facilitate a variety of operating scenarios, both loading and unloading.
In addition to the conventional liquid and vapour manifolds at mid-ships, port and starboard, Kairos has low-level liquid and vapour manifolds on the port side to suit the smaller LNG terminals. In the first six months of operation, Kairos loaded cargo from the FSRU Independence in Klaipėda, at the Fluxys terminal in Zeebrugge and at the Novatek terminal in Vysotsk. The vessel carried out a number of small-scale transhipments of LNG to the Klaipėda truck loading station, in addition to more than 20 bunkering operations, primarily to the Destination Gotland ferry Visborg.
For bunkering, each of the two cargo tanks is provided with a variable speed main pump rated at 575 m³/hr and 260 mlc, and a single-speed auxiliary pump rated at 50 m³/hr and 260 mlc, giving an operational window of 60 m³/hr to 1,250 m³/hr. For bunkering operations, Kairos has two hose-based systems for liquid vapour and nitrogen, one midships and one at the stern (Kairos’ accommodation is at the forward end), each provided with the necessary powered emergency-release couplings, quick-connect disconnects, STS-linked emergency shutdown systems and vessel separation protection systems.
Hose diameters of up to 8” NB (nominal bore) can be accommodated at both midships and stern, and additionally the midships’ hoses are on a hydraulically powered hose reel. Due to the location of the bunkering stations on the ships being provided with LNG as fuel, the stern manifold allows the bunkering operations to be carried out in a safe and efficient manner – not only for the LNG, but also for the safe and secure mooring of Kairos alongside the receiving vessel.